Healthiest Wisconsin 2020 has identified oral health as a focus of its efforts.
According to Terri Brooks, a registered nurse and the county health officer, Waupaca County provides oral health services to area children in a school-based environment.
“Waupaca County Healthy Smiles is considered an enhancement of oral health care services and is not meant to take the place of routine dental exams,” she said.
The program focuses on early intervention.
Aimee Bestul, a registered dental hygienist, sees students at the Iola-Scandinavia School District.
“We try to increase access and improve oral health care for children through dental screenings, sealants, fluoride and referrals to local dentists for care,” Bestul said.
“Typically, people see ‘baby’ teeth as expendable and not necessary to treat,” she said. “When left untreated even ‘baby’ teeth can become painful and infected. If not taken care of, the infection does have the possibly of becoming septic and even life-threatening to the child.”
According to Bestul, nationally, 80 percent of dental decay affects 20 percent of children.
In Wisconsin, one in three children are living with untreated dental decay and it is the number one preventable chronic disease in the United States.
Bestul noted that the program tries to target second and sixth graders for sealants.
“This is when children are typically having their 6-year and 12-year adult molars erupting,” she said. “We then re-screen them at third and seventh grade, to catch any who may be late in the eruption process.”
According to Oral Health America, approximately 75 percent of sealed teeth remain cavity free, compared to less than one-third of teeth without sealants.
Nine-year-old Hanah Netys was one student recently seen by Bestul.
Bestul gave Hanah a pair of sunglasses to wear and explained to her step-by-step what was going to happen.
“There will be no surprises,” Bestul said.
Once the exam was complete, Hanah had a smile on her face.
“She did a good job,” Hanah said. “It was a lot of fun and a lot less scary than going to the dentist office.”
Waupaca County initiated Waupaca County Healthy Smiles in 2010 with the award of a grant from the Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin Seal a Smile program. This competitive, annual grant and billable revenues fund the program.
During 2011-12, more than 20,000 Wisconsin children in 519 schools received 90,641 sealants.